Last year, Hamidou Diallo played half a season of college prep basketball at Putnam Science as a postgraduate of high school, then enrolled for the spring semester at Kentucky, but he did not play with the team. In fact, he hasn’t played in a game publicly in four months.
Yet the stock on the 6’6″ swingman — one of the more explosive athletes in the draft, with great physical tools and length — seems to be rising. He put up an impressive 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft Combine that turned a few heads.
Some teams like him, others don’t want to take the risk, but he is generally considered a bubble first rounder right now, but in NBC’s mock draft we had him go 23rd to Toronto (GM Masai Ujiri is willing to take these kinds of gambles). Diallo hasn’t officially decided yet if he’s going to stay in the draft, that’s why he was at the combine to let teams talk get a closer look at him, and to get a sense of where he stands.
What is the attraction of this draft’s mystery man? Kentucky Coach John Calipari think he knows, as he told the New York Times.
“They don’t know,” he said. “Well, don’t show them. They all like you without watching you. Good. The more you don’t play, the more they like you, the more they’re impressed.”
“If someone takes him in the lottery I will retire. Four months, doesn’t play, lottery pick, I’m done. I’m stopping,” he said.
Lottery seems high, but if a team falls in love with him and thinks they can develop him… who knows. The Milwaukee Bucks taking Thon Maker at No. 10 last year turned heads (he had gone to a fifth year of high school rather than play college ball), yet by the postseason he was becoming an increasingly important part of their rotation and played well.
If Diallo goes back to college for a year, he could well be a top 10 pick next year, which is part of the attraction for teams drafting late in the first round this year — they might steal a quality player late in the first. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla put it well to the Times.
“I don’t think there’s any question a team will take him in the first round, based on just his age, his size for a guard and that crazy combination of skill and athleticism.”
The question of whether said team will be able to develop him is another issue, but if he stays in the draft someone will take the chance.
The only question for Diallo is does he want to start his NBA journey now as a lower pick, or spend a season at Kentucky and likely be a much higher pick (that gets paid more out the gate, this past season the No. 10 pick made $1.4 million more than the 25th selection, but start now and he gets to the potentially more lucrative second contract sooner).
If he stays in the draft, others might start to follow his and Maker’s path.